September always has a distinctly new term feeling about it, and not just for children as the summer holidays draw to a close. This year perhaps more so than others, as we have a new Prime Minister in place, and will shortly be hearing which education Ministers will be leading crucial policy reforms for children’s social care in the coming months.
Whoever takes on these responsibilities will have a lot to catch up on: this year we have already had a number of significant policy reviews and recommendations. In the first eight months of 2022 we have had the publication of a schools white paper and now bill, the delivery of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) review, the Competition and Markets Authority’s Children’s Social Care Report, the creation of integrated care systems, the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s report into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson and the final report from the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. Taken together, these reports’ recommendations have the potential to transform children’s services.
All this means it has already been an extremely busy year for What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC). In the spring we delivered independent research reports to inform the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care on topics ranging from children in need to residential care (find out more about our webinar series on this here). And we are continuing to deliver evaluations of some of the key interventions highlighted within the Review – the impact of Family Group Conferencing, Family Drug and Alcohol Courts, the Mockingbird Family Model and our Social Workers in Schools trial to name a few. We will be reporting our findings on many of these in the coming months. This means it will continue to be an extremely busy year for us but positively, findings should arrive in time to feed into implementation planning as the government and local authorities consider the raft of recent recommendations.
Alongside this, we are working with the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) to form a new what works centre covering both early intervention and children’s social care. As a single organisation, we will be better placed to support the direction of travel set out in the Review and the ambition to bring together and strengthen direct support available to families across the early help and social work systems.
An initial government response to both the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel report was originally expected by the end of the year. Timetables may now change, but the focus has clearly been on ensuring a quick response to proposals, which is very welcome. We’re keen to ensure that evaluations of future changes are embedded into implementation plans from the beginning, so that the benefits for children and families can be measured and provide the evidence needed to support future investment.
Submissions for new ministers will have been building up over the summer. We will now be hoping that measures to ensure well resourced and evaluated reform of children’s services make their way to the top of the pile, so we have a clear path forward for the next generation. Quite what the end of year report will look like though, remains to be seen.